I picked up Darksteel on clearance, mostly because I didn't want to shell out twenty bones on more "Prime" toys - I just couldn't get in to the show. These creatures were pretty neat, though, and as someone who dug Fuzors back in the day I can get behind weird creature modes. Granted, this one is a little weird - there's no real texture, and it doesn't feel quite as robotic as the G1 animals and dinosaurs. It is what it is - a strange, noseless robot with feet that seem to have like a dozen variations on how to correctly transform them. Were it not for that, this would be an incredibly simple toy.
Packaged in robot mode, seems like it may have been mistransformed but it's tough to say. The figure has a surprising amount of articulation given the simplicity of the transformation. You've got wrists that bend and swivel, articulated thumbs, moving toes on the feet, heels, and all sorts of nonsense. It's an impressive robot if you futz with it and get the full extent to just how many pieces move, even though it's wildly unnecessary. His shoulder pads are articulated, and the grey pieces are actually removable via their 5mm pegs - so he can use them as weapons, if you like. The wings are the only part of the toy that comes up short, given they can't swing out - well, the dark grey tips can, but that's it.
The head is dark blue with a bright orange face, and while I have heard some say he looks a lot like Deszaras/Deathsaurus, I'd say it's a slight resemblance at best. The figure is covered in cyberglyphs, which are painted in a bright orange color. But what do they mean? I can't find a translation or a comparison of the glyphs as letters, so I assume whatever significance they have is either out there and I can't find it or a closely-guarded secret. This deco looks sharp, too. Grimwing (the figure from which Darksteel is redecorated) featured sculpted glyphs but they were not all painted in. In that sense, I'd argue this is the better looking of the two molds. The beaked grapple weapon can fit easily in his hands or in his forearms like a Megatron cannon, so he passes the test for good accessory compatibility.
Transforming the figure is simple with a few exceptions. Basically, his arms become the front legs, his feet become the back legs, and you flip down the robot head while fiddling with the creature's long neck and covering the hole in his chest. The added complexity comes from the torso joint - my sample's is incredibly tight and I feel like I'm going to break it each time I transform him - plus the multi-jointed knees and feet have no real obvious "correct" mode. There are numerous joints and moving parts here, granting the end user multiple options for how you want to configure him as a taller guy, a shorter guy, a guy with super-long feet, and so on. If you have multiples of this mold - and with the so-so Grimwing and the seemingly gorgeous Japan import with a remolded head Budora (Oni!) - be glad that this option is available for you.
Going back to the earlier Fuzors analogy, this creature's alt mode is a doozy. The bear-meets-griffin Ursagryph mode is a bizarre one, and the limbs don't morph enough to really look all that different. I think it's the neck of the creature that needed to look different - as it is, it looks like the robot standing on all fours with a new head. It's convincing, I guess, but a simplistic transformation and few significant changes knock it down a few pegs. Well, or it maybe raises it for kids - other than the sliding torso joint, this seems like it would be a fun, simple toy for kids. Heck, even the accessory's projectile is held in by a rope - it's harder to lose parts here.
As a less-than-giant fan of this series, I like this toy a bunch. I would've preferred a different robot head, but the articulation and accessories are quite good and I appreciate the bizarre paint job. Since I skipped most of Prime I can say this figure doesn't make me feel like I missed out on too much, but now I'm beginning to think I should've snagged more of the Predacons for their bizarre forms. Let's face it, since 2001 we've been on a steady diet of cars for the most part, and bizarre creatures like this are far and few between. I'm assuming now that we're in full-on Dinobots mania, unless we get a Maximals and Predacons revival in the main line, it'll be a while before we see another being like this.
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